Patience the path to peak performance

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Ryan Breton came into 2016 as the ASC preseason Offensive Player of the Year. All that did was raise the stakes for him.
Hardin-Simmons athletics photo

Look at Ryan Breton as the final month of the regular season gets underway. He’s one of the top quarterbacks in the country, a star for Hardin-Simmons who has thrown for more than 1,900 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.

Glancing at his stats you might think it’s always been this way for Breton. It hasn’t.

Just a few years ago, Breton was on the Cowboys’ developmental squad.

In an era when so many athletes want instant glory, Breton was the exception. He embraced the chance to be part of the team.

“When I was a freshman, I wasn’t ready to be a starter on Saturday afternoon,” Breton said. “I came from a smaller high school and the jump to Division III, even on that team, was a change. It was a challenge, but I think the experience really helped me out. It prepared me for the position I’m in now.”

That position is one where Breton is a leader for a Cowboys team near the top of the ASC heap and aiming for a berth in the playoffs.

Since taking over as the starter in the fifth game last season when Weston Garner went down with an injury, Breton has thrived.

Breton knew his time would come to be a starting quarterback. Maybe the experience would last only a year or two, but Breton knew one thing.

“I knew if the time came where I would get the job, I wasn’t going to give it up,” Breton said. “My hope was to get a year or two as the starter and make the most of that opportunity. Things have worked out as well as I could have expected them to.”

Breton wrapped up last season throwing for 1,823 yards and 22 touchdowns. He was picked off just five times and was an honorable mention All-ASC selection. That performance, which included leading the Cowboys to their first win over Mary Hardin-Baylor since 2004 -- he threw for 284 yards in that showdown -- came on the heels of a sophomore campaign where he saw action in five games as a backup quarterback.

“I was anxious the first time I went in as a starter, but I don’t think I was nervous,” Breton said. “My coaches did a great job of preparing me, and I felt like everything just fell into place after that.”

Breton was so good in 2015 that he entered the 2016 season as the preseason ASC Offensive Player of the Year.

“It was a big deal and meant a lot, but I also knew it meant I had to work even harder,” Breton said.

He hasn’t let the hype or the expectations get to him. It’s why the Cowboys are 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the ASC. Breton feels good about the way things have played out up to this point.

“I’m a lot more comfortable this year and more confident,” Breton said. “My success starts with my coaches and my teammates. Everyone is doing their job, and we seem to be clicking.”

Breton is happy with the way his career has played out and he’s also thrilled about having the chance to spend his final season in college with his younger brother, Logan, a freshman defensive back.

“We have always been competitive in everything we do. You name it and we make it a contest,” Breton said. “It’s something special to have him on the team. I’ve always been close to him.”

Breton has done his best to be a leader to his brother and other younger players on the team, helping them understand that playing college football is a process, that it takes a great deal of hard work to succeed at this level.

He’s also focused on the remaining two games of the season and is confident the Cowboys can stay on track for a postseason berth.

But no matter how the year plays out, he’s thankful for the opportunities he’s had with the Cowboys.

“It’s been a great experience and I’ve had a lot of fun here,” Breton said. “My teammates have been great. I enjoy spending time with them, and I’m going to miss it when it’s over.”

Wild day in the SAA

In a game where the two teams combined for more than 1,300 yards of offense, Rhodes prevailed 55-54 over Hendrix thanks to PJ Settles’ game-winning touchdown run with 6:17 to play.

Duke Sherrell then sealed the deal in the closing seconds, coming through with a sack and forcing a fumble as Rhodes knocked off the defending league champions on Homecoming. Sherrell finished with 12 tackles and Rhodes, at 5-3 overall, has one more win than it did all of last year.

Settles was brilliant, accounting for seven touchdowns, including five through the air as he threw for 425 yards and fueled an offense that has scored 50 or more in two consecutive games. The Lynx are averaging 481.1 yards per game, and Settles has been instrumental to that success, racking up 2,455 yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for 530 yards and eight scores.

Rhodes, under the direction of first-year head coach Jim Ryan, has two games remaining and is in position to finish in the top half of a competitive league where the automatic playoff bid is still up for grabs.

Berry, Centre and Washington are all tied for first with 5-1 records. The Vikings take on Birmingham-Southern this week and play at Centre on Nov. 12. Washington, which defeated Centre but lost to Berry, hosts Hendrix and has to play at Chicago. Centre travels to Rhodes this week.

Pirates clinch share of title

Southwestern is assured of at least a share of its first SCAC championship in program history after blanking Austin 35-0 Saturday.

The shutout is the second of the season for the Pirates, who are 5-3 overall and 4-0 in the conference. Brandon Fleischmann paved the way defensively with 10 tackles and two sacks, pushing his team-best total to 54. He has also registered 8.5 sacks. His effort helped Southwestern limit the Kangaroos to 163 yards, including only 59 rushing yards.

After allowing more than 40 points in a 42-22 loss to UW-River Falls on Sept. 24, the Pirates have given up only 45 points in the last four games, holding three teams to seven points or less.

Their effort has paved the way for four consecutive wins and the most wins in a season since the program started back up in 2013. Southwestern had won a total of three games in the previous three seasons and had never won an SCAC game until this season.

Tigers survive border battle

East Texas Baptist’s high-powered offense didn’t disappoint in its Battle of the Border Claw showdown with Louisiana College. Dru Smith threw for a single-game record 530 yards and six touchdowns, paving the way for a wild and thrilling 64-62 road victory.

This was the 19th time the two teams have met and the ninth win in the series for the Tigers, who feature the best offense in the country. On this night, they finished with 713 yards while the Wildcats cranked out 502 and battled back from an early 16-0 deficit to make things interesting.

Three receivers all went over 100 yards for the Tigers, including Derrick Ledet, who caught 11 passes for 168 yards. He made one touchdown grab.

Smith has thrown for more than 2,500 yards to go along with 29 touchdowns. Eight different receivers have caught touchdown passes for an offense that is rolling up 610.8 yards per outing.

The 21st-ranked Tigers are 7-1 on the year and in the hunt for a playoff berth. They will have a golden opportunity to make a case for one this weekend when they go on the road to battle No. 10 Hardin-Simmons.

Sideline notes

Burke Moser set several records while helping Chicago roll to a 49-30 SAA win over Sewanee. Moser threw for a school and conference record 558 yards and his seven touchdown passes were the most in school history as well. Moser has thrown for a record 2,861 yards and 24 touchdowns this year.

Davis King rushed for the first two touchdowns of his career and helped Trinity rally for a 28-27 win over Texas Lutheran. The junior quarterback also threw for 121 yards. Luke Packard tallied two sacks and moved into second all-time at the school for sacks in a season. The record is 12.5. He needs only three sacks to set the career record (25.5).

Jordan Washington has made it a habit to pick off a pass and return it for a touchdown. The McMurry defensive back did it again Saturday, returning an interception 93 yards for a score in the War Hawks’ 41-6 win over Howard Payne. Washington missed the school record for an interception return by a yard and has picked off a total of four passes in his last three games. Washington has a total of 285 interception return yards and ranks second on the team in tackles with 42.

If you have a great story idea or notable accomplishments that deserve a mention in this column, feel free to reach out to me at brian.lester@d3sports.com. You can also follow on Twitter @BLester1993

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Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Florida. He has 14 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending 10 at The Courier in Findlay, Ohio. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for D3hoops.com and wrote Around the Great Lakes for D3football.com from 2012-14. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois.

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